Opposition forces in northern Afghanistan are claiming sweeping battlefield victories against the ruling Taleban, along a broad front stretching in the west from the borders of Turkmenistan and Iran to areas in the east near the capital, Kabul.
Opposition Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah told the Cable News Network (C-N-N) that Northern Alliance troops, backed by U-S special forces, have taken all or major parts of seven provinces from the Taleban since capturing the city of Mazar-e-Sharif Friday. His claims could not be independently confirmed.
Mr. Abdullah said his alliance would not attempt to take and enter Kabul without first having a broad political agreement on how and by whom a post-Taleban Afghanistan would be governed.
Earlier today, U-S Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said hundreds of Taleban soldiers and al-Qaida terrorists were killed during Friday's battle for Mazar-e-Sharif. Speaking on Fox network television, Mr. Rumsfeld said opposition troops are in control of most of the city.
Mr. Rumsfeld described pockets of resistance in and near Mazar-e-Sharif and said the airport has not yet been fully secured. He did not disclose the number of alliance casualties, and made no mention of U-S losses in the battle.
U-S warplanes have continued to bomb Taleban and al-Qaida sites near Kabul, as the pursuit of Osama bin Laden and his terrorist al-Qaida network enters its sixth week.
President Bush said Saturday the opposition is encouraged to advance, but not to enter Kabul. He said a post-Taleban government representing all ethnic factions in Afghanistan needs to be established first.